Marcus Hamblett is one of the mainstays of the Willkommen Records label, a staple source of some of the finest music Brighton has produced in recent years. Marcus also plays with Sons of Noel and Adrian, Eyes & No Eyes, accompanies a range of other performers in the studio and on stage and has added his production skills to hone the sounds of albums by the likes of Mariner’s Children and Woodpecker Woolliams.
However, he has now released his own album ‘Concrete’ and it’s a startling original concoction. Although it wears its sources on its sleeve, it is unlike anything else from the Willkommen stable – or anything else being released elsewhere at the moment.
The album comprises half a dozen mainly instrumental songs (final track, ‘Stony Ground’, being the slight exception), drawing their influences from free jazz (‘Nocturne’), Italian 1970s film soundtracks (‘Skeleton Key’, ‘Three Four’) and the kind of ambient noise rock made by Six Organs of Admittance and similar bands (‘Augmented’, ‘Stony Ground’). We catch hints of Serge Gainsbourg and early 70s Miles Davis as well. Suffice to say, this is not folk, but it is evocative and moving music which should appeal to fans of the avant-garde and the looser side of jazz as well as independent ambient-rock enthusiasts.
Live, some of the songs have an outing in the form of the Heather Hamblett Duo, in which Marcus gets to play around on his guitar and a variety of strange and sometimes home-built electronic instruments, accompanied by some intense improvised drumming by Thomas Heather, which digs deeper into the free jazz side of the groove.
We spoke to Marcus about his new album.
How did the Heather Hamblett Duo come about?
Just through playing gigs in London and sometimes sharing bills with a band then called Tristram, who Tom played drums with. Their bassist left and I joined just to cover a show or two until they found a full time replacement. We ended up changing the sound a lot and reforming the band as Eyes & No Eyes.
Since then Tom and I have played together with Sons of Noel and Adrian, Damo Suzuki, Emma Gatrill, Rachael Dadd, Rozi Plain, Woodpecker Wooliams and more. I guess with Woodpecker Wooliams we realised more and more that we just love to improvise and sometimes make quite horrible sounds and now we’ve left song structure behind completely and just go where the mood takes us.
Tell us about what influenced the music on the album.
Definitely European film soundtracks, especially Giallo stuff from Italy. I have listened to a lot of Miles Davis but not so much of the 70s stuff to be honest, though I do love ‘He Loved Him Madly’. The biggest influences were probably Gastr Del Sol, Brokeback and other Chicago stuff like Isotope 217, Chicago Underground Duo and Jeff Parker. Definitely a bit of Faust, Nels Cline, Robert Wyatt and Six Organs of Admittance in there too.
When you play live you use instruments you made yourself. Do they feature on the album too?
Ah… That’s kind of a separate project. Most of the instruments used on the album are normal instruments. Although some of the weirder sounds are teased out of them by preparing them with metal objects. I have a box full of different shaped washers and screws and things I find in the street. I keep them and see what noises I can get out of a guitar with them.
When it came to playing live shows, drummer Tom Heather and I decided not to replicate the album because half of it is really densely arranged and the other half is improvised. So live we just improvise and I use whatever I’m most excited about. Recently I’ve been building electronic stuff so we’ve been exploring that stuff.
What part does Tom play in writing songs?
For the album I wrote the songs, whereas live we’re both equally responsible for what happens. That’s why when we play live we name the band after both of us.”
Marcus Hamblett’s album ‘Concrete’ is available in digital format and on CD from https://marcushamblett.bandcamp.com
Words and photo by Jon Southcoasting